Expert Voices: City of Stockholm’s Tomas Gustafsson – “Let low carbon development be driver of green growth in cities”

The threat of global climate change affects every citizen of this planet, and our shared future will depend upon investing in reliable, low carbon solutions that are also economically viable. In this challenging time lies a fantastic window of opportunity to enable and embrace low carbon development as a driver of green economic growth in our cities.

C40’s Climate Positive Development Program is a vehicle for developing low carbon projects which can then serve as replicable models for how cities can grow sustainably. Guided by a framework that focuses on minimizing onsite carbon emissions associated with operational energy, waste and transportation emissions, these projects expand the impact of their development and achieve net-carbon negative (climate positive) by making investments in the local community to reduce their emissions beyond zero. The Climate Positive program currently comprises 17 projects around the world that are enhancing their surrounding communities and cities through low carbon development. Stockholm Royal Seaport, one of Climate Positive’s founding projects, has a goal to be climate positive and fossil fuel free by 2030.

Stockholm Royal Seaport, Aerial Installation. Source: City of Stockholm and BSK Architects

As the capital of Sweden, and winner of the first European Green Capital Award in 2010, Stockholm is making a strong effort towards sustainable development. And by participating in C40, and as Lead City of the C40 Climate Positive Development Network, Stockholm is demonstrating our commitment to low carbon solutions. The City of Stockholm recently modified an already aggressive city-wide goal to be fossil fuel-free by 2050 to achieving it by 2040, speeding up development and implementation of low carbon solutions and green growth. According to the Stockholm – Green Economy Leader Report,  the city has already decoupled economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. From 1993 to 2010 emissions were reduced by 35 per cent, while the economy grew by 41 per cent, one of the highest growth rates in Europe.  

However, Stockholm and other active cities know that achieving true sustainability must involve our citizens. Roughly 50 per cent of GHG emissions are caused by citizens’ consumption of food, products and long distance travels (indirect emissions)[1]. Fortunately, there are many creative and exciting citizen engagement efforts underway around the world, from Seoul’s eco-mileage system, where citizens earn mileage for good energy and climate behavior, to the Climate Smart Stockholmer, which promotes climate-smart living through increased communication and information sharing with citizens.

The Climate Positive model has huge potential to pave the way for stronger green economic growth in our cities, as well as bring about significant emissions reductions, resulting in long-term wellbeing of citizens around the world. Our experiences already show that smart, low carbon solutions cut greenhouse gas emissions in cost-effective ways.

Tomas Gustafsson is a sustainability strategist responsible for the City of Stockholm´s leadership of the C40 Climate Positive Development Network.

[1] Greenhouse Gas Emissions in King County; SEI and King County, 2012